Erne Looks to Prove Himself With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Adam Erne is back in the AHL and ready to demonstrate why he belongs at the next level.

The winger earned his first promotion to Tampa Bay last year and finished the regular season with the Lightning. Erne was returned to Syracuse for the playoffs, and suited up for all 22 games on the Crunch’s road to the Calder Cup Finals.

As he begins his third professional season, Erne knows making that next step to the NHL full-time is all about consistency.

"I think just being dominant every night and proving that I deserve to be at the next level," Erne said of what it would take to earn a spot with the Lightning. "I think I have the tools to get there, it's just a matter of using them every night."

Erne got into three preseason games with the Lightning and recorded a pair of goals. In 26 NHL games last season, Tampa Bay’s 2013 second round selection had three goals and 40 shots.

Before his call-up last season, Erne registered 14 goals and 15 assists in 42 games with Syracuse, and he added 10 points in 22 postseason contests.

"I thought I had a really good camp," Erne said. "I don't need waivers to go down and whatnot, so I'm an easier guy to send down. It's disappointing that I'm not there, but just like last year I'm going to try and work my way up."

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx was pleased with Erne’s play throughout training camp and in Syracuse’s two preseason games, despite Erne not landing on the scoresheet.

"I liked the competitiveness he brings on the ice lately, and that's what he has to do," Groulx said of the North Branford, Connecticut native. "He's got to compete and force the defender to use their body and speed against them. When he does that, he's tough to play against, and that's what he's been doing lately."

Erne flanked rookies Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph during the preseason game Sunday and in practice Tuesday. Although by games-played Erne isn’t considered a veteran by AHL standards, the 22-year-old still sees himself as a player who can help young players transition to the pro game.

"Not being that far in age from them, I can kind of relate to what they're feeling and going through, so I'll be able to help them through that," Erne said.

Although the Crunch went to the Calder Cup Finals last season, the roster turnover has been significant. More than a handful of players are expected to officially begin their rookie seasons Friday in Rochester.

"When you get a taste of almost winning and coming that close, all you want to do is get back there and try to win it," Erne said of the Calder Cup. "We have a lot of new guys that weren't there last year, but it's our job to get them on board."

Erne will continue to chase the Calder Cup with Syracuse until he gets another shot in the NHL.

"Obviously, that decision is not really in my hands," Erne said. "So all I can do is play every night and try to prove to them that's where I deserve to be and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Pictured: Crunch forward Adam Erne looks to make a pass against the Comets during a preseason game at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.